Prince versus Everyone Else? There’s Sammy Davis, there’s Michael. Period.

Some folks just see a little further ahead than the rest of us. Others can see around the corners too…

One last thing I’m gonna say about Prince, only because I still get the sense that some may not quite fully grasp the man’s historic significance, not only as a musician but as an all around entertainer/performer. Much has been said about his unparalleled abilities onstage, his superhuman work ethic, the way he shredded genders and musical barriers.

And all of that is true.

But what I haven’t seen too much about is how Prince fits into context with other musical greats, because there are – and were – many. But only a bare handful over the past century can compare to Prince when you consider the full range of his abilities.  Only Sammy Davis Jr. and Michael Jackson really come close. And truth be told? Sammy towers over them all, and that includes Prince, Michael Jackson, James Brown, and anyone else you’d care to name.

Consider the following for the sake of comparison:

  • Prince was a multi-instrumentalist, great vocalist, superb dancer,  ridiculously prolific songwriter, producer, and electrifying performer. He also made a few movies (only “Purple Rain” was any good, but it became a box office smash, bringing in $68 million at the box office and earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, and launched his career).
  • Michael Jackson was also a superb dancer (better than Prince), a great vocalist as a child (who slipped a few notches to good vocalist when he got older), a prolific songwriter (though not nearly as prolific as Prince), producer, and also an electrifying performer. Broke the color barrier on MTV, and created the video as short movie format that transformed music videos forever.
  • Sammy Davis Jr. was an incredible dancer (easily as good as Michael Jackson and Prince, and that’s not including his tap dancing), a superb vocalist (his voice was easily better than Michael’s as an adult, and was an easy match for Prince), a multi-instrumentalist, an accomplished actor (who could actually act, as opposed to Michael or Prince), a great stand-up comedian (who also gained fame with the notorious Rat Pack), a master of impersonations, and was also a master performer with a lasso and a pistol. Oh, and in 1966 he had his own TV variety show, The Sammy Davis Jr. Show.

Sammy Davis Jr. was the greatest of them all…

In other words, Sammy Davis Jr., who died on May 16, 1990, at the age of 64, could do pretty much everything that Prince and Michael could do, some of it better, with the addition of movie (and TV) acting and standup comedy. And he started performing professionally at the age of 3 in Vaudeville with his father and Will Mastin in the Will Maston Trio. The only reason more are not aware today of Sammy’s prodigious talent is because Sammy’s career was here and gone before the age of MTV, let alone the internet and other technological marvels that could have launched him to the moon and back had the arc of his career taken place today. There is more than enough video footage to document Prince’s accomplishments, as well as Michael’s, but Sammy? Not so much. Plus, let’s not forget the incredible racism and discrimination faced by Davis, which was far worse than anything Prince or Michael could have ever conceived.

But even Sammy would have tipped his hat to Prince. Because same recognizes same, and there’s only enough air that high up the mountain to sustain the deserving few.

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About the author
kaoblues
Writer and musician.

2 Comments

Patricia

2017-01-06 01:21:32 Reply

I agree with everything. Very well said.

    kaoblues

    2017-03-19 16:53:30 Reply

    Thank you!

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